Description of Historic Place
The building at 73 Melville Street, known as Dundas Central School, is located in the historical Town of Dundas, within the City of Hamilton. The two-and-a-half storey red brick building was built in three stages between 1857 and 1919.
The exterior, selected elements of the interior and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. he property was also designated by the former Town of Dundas (now the City of Hamilton) under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 3751-88).
Dundas Central School is located amongst nineteenth century residences and situated adjacent to St. Augustine's Catholic Church. In addition, it is in close proximity to King Street, the historic downtown core of Dundas, and local landmarks, including the Collins Brewhouse and the Carnegie Gallery.
Dundas Central School is one of the earliest purpose-built public schools in Ontario. The 1850 Common Schools Act allowed municipalities to fund construction and operation of public schools from property taxation, inaugurating a standardized public education system. Influenced by Egerton Ryerson's educational reforms in the 1840s, a new institution called the Central School emerged. These were large-scale schools featuring a graded curriculum and an expanded teaching faculty. The first central schools in Ontario were built in the early 1850s, with Dundas following in 1857. Both common (elementary) and grammar (high) school curriculum were taught at various grade levels and the school was outfitted with modern mechanical services and a playground. The grammar school was located on the upper floor and the ground floor was for the common school. An eight-room addition was built in 1885 and another four-room extension was added in 1919. Enrolment continued to increase and a separate high school was built in 1930.
The Dundas Central School was built in three stages; in 1857, 1885 and 1919 in the Greek Revival, Queen Anne Revival and Edwardian styles respectively. The 1857 portion of the structure was designed by Francis Hawkins in the Greek Revival style. It was composed of red brick on a raised, cut limestone base and is a symmetrical cross-gabled building. Pilasters divide the façades of the seven and six bays which serve to organize the fenestration. The brick walls are laid in Flemish bond in the recessed bays and stretcher bond on the pilasters. Double-hung, six over six, sash windows with stone lug sills are adorned with moulded wood pediments. The central (south) entrance contains steps and a double door with a transom, framed by a pediment frontispiece of wood pilasters with Corinthian capitals, a bracketed frieze and a pediment with wood dentils and acanthus leaf trim. Above the entrance are two double-hung, four over four, sash windows framed in one sill. The south, east and west elevations of the two-and-a-half storey building have a large pediment gable and a bracketed raking cornice with dentil trim. Two vented openings in its tympanum were originally double-hung sash windows.
Alterations made in 1885 complement the original edifice's aesthetic by maintaining similar scale and construction material. The 1885 gabled addition in the Queen Anne Revival style extends from the 1857 building's north elevation. Its brickwork and bracketing is identical to the earlier structure. Two front gabled dormers with arched vented openings bisect the building. Pairs of single-hung, four over two, wood sash windows are arranged in each bay and two pairs of single-hung, six over two, wood sash windows on the southern end of the structure extend below the second storey to mark two side double-door entrances with transoms, a porch and steps.
The third addition, in a restrained Edwardian style, was built in 1919 north of the 1885 structure, with a flat roof, pediment parapets and single-hung, four over two, wood sash windows. A modern extension was added to the rear of the building in 1961. The interiors of the 1857 and 1885 structures retain their original window trim, wooden panelled doors and wainscoting from the 1885 remodelling throughout both their floors. Two barrel-vaulted pressed metal ceilings exist on the upper floor of the 1857 school.
Source: Dundas Central School Ontario Heritage Trust conservation heritage easement, 1990.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of Dundas Central School include its:
- Greek Revival style of the 1857 structure
- two-and-a-half storey construction built in three stages
- front entrance with transom framed by a wooden portico frontispiece with Corinthian pilasters and a frieze bracketed by vertical scrolls and dentils with acanthus leaf trim
- red brickwork in Flemish, stretcher and common bond on a raised cut limestone base
- decorative pilasters on the exterior creating recessed brick panels
- pediment gables on the south, east and west elevations with dentil trim ornamentation and brackets
- 34, double-hung, six over six, wood sash windows with moulded wooden pediments and stone lug sills
- sympathetic 1885 and 1919 additions respecting the 1857 structure's aesthetic through similar scaling and materials
- 1885 addition built in the Queen Anne Revival style almost flush to 1857 north façade
- gabled dormers with vented openings bisecting the structure
- two double entrances with transoms on each side of the 1857 building
- brackets on a gabled cornice
- 36, four over two, single-hung wood sash windows and stone lug sills
- 1919 addition designed in a restrained Edwardian style with a flat roof and pediment parapets
- 23, four over two, single-hung wood sash windows on stone lug sills arranged in pairs or groups of three
- original panelled wood doors from 1885 throughout both floors
- original wood trim and wainscoting from 1885 throughout the halls on both floors
- two barrel-vaulted, pressed tin ceilings in the south-east and south-west rooms on the second floor of 1885 addition
- proximity to numerous nineteenth century residences and to St. Augustine's Catholic Church
- proximity to Dundas' historical downtown commercial centre
- siting near other historic landmarks